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“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers…


An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.
Knot🟢Why are there 12 Inches in a Foot?🟢Nanotechnology🟢नवरात्रि - Navratri🟢What is Stem Cell Research?🟢The Most Dangerous Tree🟢Extinct Animals of the World🟢जातक कथा: लक्खण मृग की कहानी | The Story of The Two Deer🟢जातक कथा: महाकपि का बलिदान | The Story of Great Monkey🟢जातक कथा: छद्दन्त हाथी की कहानी | Chaddanta Elephant🟢जातक कथा: दो हंसों की कहानी | The Story of Two Swans🟢जातक कथा: रुरु मृग | The Story of Ruru Deer🟢जातक कथा: चांद पर खरगोश | The Hare on The Moon🟢जातक कथा: महिलामुख हाथी | The Story Of Mahilaimukha Elephant🟢जातक कथा: बिना अकल के नक़ल की कहानी | Akal Ke Bina Nakal🟢जातक कथा: गौतम बुद्ध और अंगुलिमाल की कथा | Gautam Budha & Angulimal Ki Kahani🟢अलिफ लैला - शहरयार और शहरजाद की शादी की कहानी🟢अलिफ लैला - अमीना की कहानी🟢अलिफ लैला - गरीब मजदूर की कहानी🟢अलिफ लैला - भद्र पुरुष और उसके तोते की कहानी

“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers……….
An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

The Knowledge Library



The Foundation of the Mauryan Empire opened a new era in the history of India.

Kautilya’s Arthashastra gave a glimpse of this period. Megasthenes was a noble in the court of Selekus Nikator, a general appointed by Alexander to govern his conquered provinces in the subcontinent.

After Nikator was defeated but Chandragupta, Megasthenes came to Chandragupta’s court. He wrote a book called “Indica”. It had a detailed account of the Mauryan administration.

Edicts of Ashok: the fourteen major edicts are in Pali, Prakrit language, and in Brahmi and Kharoshti scripts.

They also give information about Ashok and Mauryan administration.

Mauryan Kings

Chandragupta Maurya:

He was the founder of the Empire. He defeated the last Nanda king and ended the dynasty. He also defeated Alexander’s general Selekus Nikator. Nikator ceded Alexander’s conquered territories to Mauryan Empire.

Chandragupta also captured central Indian territories up to Narmada. At the end of his life he embraced Jainism moved to Shravan Belgola and starved to death.


He was called the slayer of enemies. He conquered Deccan up to Mysore. He appointed Ashok as governor of Ujjain. He supported Ajivikas, a religious sect.

Ashok the Great:

He was the most powerful and famous Mauryan emperor.
He embraced Buddhism after the Kalinga war.  He appointed officers to spread Dhamma.
He convened the third Buddhist council at Patliputra. He sent his son to Sri Lanka. The southernmost states of Cholas, Chera, and Pandya were borders to it but outside his Empire.

    • Asoka was credited with having conquered only Kalinga. Kalinga in Odisa was considered to be of strategic importance as it controlled routes to South India both by land and by sea.
    • Rock Edict – 13 describes the Kalingan war. It is said to have taken place 8 years after the coronation of Asoka. The war was a destructive one where nearly 1 lakh perished and many times more were injured.
    • The Edict goes on to state that though Asoka was victorious, he regretted the destruction and moved towards Buddhism, and adopted the policy of Dhamma Viyaya.

He was the first emperor to have a welfare state for the people.

Dhamma concept of Buddha was a social code. It was wider than Buddhism which Ashok treated as his personal belief. He didn’t equate Dhamma and Buddhism. His concept of Dhamma is written on rock edicts. The edicts were written in Pali, Prakrit, and Greek and in Brahmi and Kharoshti scripts.

Due to weak successors and Bactrian invasions in the north, the Mauryan Empire collapsed. Other reasons attributed to the decline of later Mauryan were administrative and political factors.


Mauryan was a monarchy. But the king took the advice of his ministers. The kingdom had a well-defined civil service.
The army was well maintained. Revenue administration imposed taxes and levies.
Civil and criminal courts were present and torture, mutilation, and death were given.
Census was carried out. Village administration was well defined.
The currency of Mauryans was accepted worldwide.

Mauryan Art and Architecture:

  • The use of stone for architecture and sculptures started in this period. However only the Sanchi Stupa survives today. Other palaces and monasteries have perished.
  • The pillars were the finest specimen of Mauryan architecture. The pillars had animals on top.
  • Stupa’s were destroyed by foreign invaders.
  • Caves were given by Ashok to the Ajivikas sect. The inner walls of the caves are polished like mirrors.
  • The Mauryan period saw the height of pillars and stupa architecture. Post Mauryans saw the height of sculptures.
  • During the Mauryan period, only viharas existed after that both chaityas and viharas.

 Material Basis for the Mauryan Empire

    • In the excavations, different types of sickles, tools, axes, and other implements were found. That these were essential to the practice of intensive agriculture in the heavy and loamy soil of the Gangetic valley. These tools also made the task of clearing the heavy forests of the eastern Ganges valley very easy.
    • Numerous small heaps of iron slags were found at different places all over the iron belt of south Bihar. This shows that iron smelting was not of high quality. Local furnaces were discovered which probably symbolized the availability of iron smelting to the local population.
    • The point of interest is that the use of iron smelting did not diffuse to other parts of the country from the Ganges valley. The importance of iron was recognized by the state as is evident from Arthashastra which advocates that the king should maintain a monopoly over certain kinds of mining. This perhaps also showed the need for mining to satisfy military operations.
    • For the agrarian economy to expand new labor-intensive rice cultivation techniques were found. Arthashastra suggested that Shudras were to be used for labor or agricultural work. Thus they formed a majority of the manual labor community.
    • The people were deported from highly populated areas to deserted areas to encourage permanent settlements there. The deserted areas identified for repopulation were highly fertile. This process was known as Janapadanivesa. The repopulation involved the forceful deportation of Shudras or subjects of defeated kingdoms to new areas.
    • the newly formed villages were called Sita lands. There existed a separate department in the kingdom to supervise these lands. The villagers of these areas were provided cattle and agricultural implements and offered tax remissions.
    • The Mauryans thus controlled manpower and raw materials and this made the agrarian expansion possible. The state also provided irrigation facilities in areas of scanty rainfall and levied a cess for irrigation. The agrarian systems in areas outside the Ganges valley were operated by Gahapatis. They maintained a system of agricultural laborers. The state of these laborers was pitiful. The Arthashastra mentions rules for land and building sales. This means small areas were allowed to own for cultivation.

Mauryan Land revenue systems

    • the land revenue system was organized to extract maximum surplus from the people. The land tax or Bhaga was high and would be around one-sixth of the agricultural produce. The sharecropping system was also encouraged and the sharecroppers were provided with a lot of agricultural inputs. The state then would levy a higher tax on the final product i.e. around half.
    • A tax called Pindakar had to be paid by practitioners of animal husbandry. Often the villagers had to share a part of their products with the army passing through their territories and this too was an additional burden.
    • The system of taxes on land made it easier for the maintenance of government machinery and the army. The Arthashatra also talks about other taxes like Bali a Vedic era known tax that was continued by the Mauryan. Hinanya – which literally means gold and was probably collected in Gold from the peasants.
    • Prananya was a voluntary tax that was to be gifted by the cultivators to the sovereign. The arthashastra talks about tax that had to be levied during emergencies when the revenue of the sovereign was less. These taxes became a burden for the peasants. The Arthashatra also talked about taxes which were levied depending on the soil fertility and type of village. Sometimes farmers were forced to cultivate multiple crops. This system of agrarian taxation was found at least in the core areas of the Empire.

Urban economy – Mauryan Empire

    • The agrarian economy gave a boost to the Mauryan empire and created a solid economic foundation. But it was the trading activities that created a scope for the empire to expand to other regions.
    • The strategic location of the Mauryan capital of Patliputra along the trade routes made it advantageous for the Mauryans.
    • The major land and river routes passed through the Ganges and the valley around it. Under state initiative, this was cleared and further opened up newer routes for economic activity.
    • Mauryan kings especially Bindusara and Asoka followed a policy of peaceful relations with the Greeks and this policy led to the enhancement of trading relations.
    • The trade was carried out by merchants and artisans. In the Mauryan times, it was found that artisans worked in guilds. They were organized by their trades and lived in closely-knit communities. The art of their work also was passed from father to son. This gave rise to specializations. The communities of artists now collectively dealt with merchants. This reduced the competition an artist might have from another of the same art.
    • Similar to artisans the merchants were also separated from their guilds. These guilds were organized along with different artisans. each merchant guild dealt with a particular artisan guild. The merchants too formed their communities and lived in close-knit localities. Thus, the merchant and artisan guilds helped trade flourish in the Mauryan empire.
    • From the point of view of revenue collection, it was easier for the administration to collect revenue.
    • The Mauryan state also controlled profitable activities of trade directly. This was done through a system of directly employing artisans by the state. The state would then deal with other kingdoms and profit from the economic activity. To take advantage of the well-organized distribution and transportation system of private traders, the state was associated with them too. The state also maintained a system of supervisors’ overall activities that yielded profit. There were superintendents of commerce for fixing prices of commodities, superintendents of markets who safeguarded the markets against practices of traders, superintendents of ships, tolls, liquor shops, and weights and measures were also present.
    • The maintenance of the state monopoly over mining activities allowed the state to control the manufacture of arms and armaments used for the army. The other significant features of the empire were the emergence of a cash economy and urbanization.
    • The government officers were paid salaries in cash. Especially silver coins were used to make payments of salaries and in trading. The maximum number of relics of punch-marked silver coins were found at the nucleus of the empire in UP and Bihar.
    • Urbanization was important as the tribes in the forests were not in the control of the state. Yet to ensure that the trade routes were protected, the state had to intervene to ensure that the tribes would remain controlled. this was done by progressively bringing them under a system of private land ownership and settled agriculture.

Society and Religion

    • The society was based on the varna caste system which was rigidly followed in the society. This rigidity created tensions.
    • The emergence of an urban center demanded a more flexible social organization. Tribes and people from outside the varna system came into contact and resided in these urban centers. Their accommodation in the existing social fabric also presented a problem.
    • Besides them, the vaishyas also accumulated wealth due to their trading activity. Through their contacts with trading guilds, they controlled urban institutions. They were however denied a position of respect in the society. Their resentment towards Brahmanism also led to their devotion to other religions such as Buddhism and Jainism.
    • Shudras were also tired and resented the brahmans and hence they indulged in criminal activities. They also turned to various heterodox sects. This led to a conflict with the traditional domination of brahmins over society.
    • Buddhism flourished during the time before Ashoka’s rule. After the third Buddhist council, it was decided to send emissaries to other areas in the subcontinents to spread Buddhism. This growth of Buddhism wasn’t matched by Jainism. The Arthashastra mentions Buddhism but not Jainism. Ashoka refers to Jains in his literary works.
    • More prominent than Jainism was Ajivikas sect which was started by Makkali gosala who was a contemporary of Buddha. Thus Buddhism, Ajivikas, and Jainism remained rooted in the society during the Mauryan rule. however, it was a challenge to the traditional Vedic brahmins and so social tensions could have been high.

Ashoka’s Policy of Dhamma

    • It was against this background that Ashoka sought to pursue his policy of Dhamma to spread harmonious relationships between diverse elements in his society. He also wanted to eliminate social tensions and sectarian conflicts. Dhamma was Ashoka’s private beliefs and his own perceptions about how to resolve conflicts in society.
    • Dharma in Sanskrit was translated to Dhamma in Prakrit and in today’s interpretation means Religion but for Ashoka, it had a much wider connotation. For him, it was an ethical code aimed at building an attitude of general responsibility in his people. It focused on harmonious relationships between parents and children, abstinence of violence, harmony between various religious sects, and excessive concern for the general welfare of the people. Ashoka believed in intolerance – tolerance of other people’s religious beliefs and ideas so as to promote a harmonious way of life.
    • However, he banned all religious processions and gatherings and allowed only state-sponsored ones. This may be due to the fear of conflict due to diverse groups of people in society. He was also against unnecessary sacrifices and ceremonies and undermined the role and position of priests in society.
    • Ashoka abjured violence and banned animal sacrifices. After the Kalinga war, he refrained from further bloodshed. The ban on animal slaughter only applied to religious ceremonies and not for other purposes. The brahmins who earned their livelihood from animal sacrifices were affected due to this. Ashoka however recognized the use of violence for dealing with troublesome forest tribes.
    • Ashoka also started conducting tours every ten years throughout his empire. This would mean he could come into contact with the people and solve their problems. The officials were encouraged to conduct such tours. Dhamma Mahamantas was appointed to oversee the propagation of Dhamma and bring welfare to the people. These special officials were responsible for the propagation of dhamma even in the remote areas of the empire. Some were appointed specially to take care of Buddhists, Jains, Ajivikas,

Polity in Mauryan Administration

    • The Mauryan administration was vast with a king at the center and the support of a huge army of 400000. No other ruling house in ancient India had such a large army. The presence of a vast army gave the King coercive power to control people’s lives according to his will. Even the Arthashastra stated that the authority of the king superseded all other rulings including Dharma which could be interpreted by the King in the context of changing times. The indisputable proof of the all-embracing power of the kings is furnished in Ashokan edicts which sought to regulate even the social and religious life of the people.
    • Arthashastra claimed that the king owed nothing to anyone and his only role was to rule effectively. It also stated that the king should not make expenses that don’t generate additional revenue in return. However, Ashoka was an exception to this as he claimed that his role was the welfare of the people and he worked to pay his debt to all living beings. Ashoka also aimed to create a welfare state for his people and build ashrams, guesthouses, havens for travelers, etc.
    • However, Ashoka was an absolute monarch in spite of his aims and teachings. He believed himself to be beloved by the Gods. This may have been an attempt to emphasize the relationship between monarchy and divine power. He also worked to remove the importance of intermediaries i.e. brahmins and priests from society.
    • The Parishad was the advisory body or a council of ministers for the king. The Arthashastra tells about the qualifications and qualities of the council of ministers. The larger the council the more beneficial it is. There also was an inner cabinet known as mantris. Their role was to be consulted in times of immediate need. The role of the council of ministers was also to see that the decisions of the king were implemented.

Revenue system under the Mauryans

    • Kautilya’s Arthashastra lists 21 types of taxes that were imposed on the public. The cities paid their own revenues in the form of sales tax, income tax on the rich, tax on liquor, etc. From rural areas the revenue was obtained from land revenue, tax on orchards, agriculture produce ferrying charges, etc.
    • Mineral wealth was an important source of wealth for the state as mining was a monopoly of the sovereign.
    • Taxes were also imposed on imports and export. Taxes were imposed on travelers who came to the kingdom. Merchants paid tax when their weights were certified by the officials.
    • Treasury was under the supervision of an official named Sannidhata. A major source of outflow was expenditure to maintain the army and the administrative machinery.

Provincial administration under the Mauryans

    • The kingdom was divided into four provinces whose capitals were suvarnagiri, taxila, ujjain and tosali. The head of the provinces was a Kumar who used to govern as the king’s representative. The kumaras were in turn assisted by the Mahamatyas and the council of ministers.
    • The duty of the council of ministers was to act as advisors to the kumaras. They also were responsible to the monarch and acted as a check on the kumaras.
    • Amatyas were also important officials. They held special powers and it was against them that the people of taxila revolted during the reign of Bimbisara and Ashoka.

District and Village level administration

    • Each district had many villages in them. The district had its own system of administration and the village also had its own system of administration. Villages also had autonomy in managing their affairs to some extent.
    • A district had a Pradeshtha who was the highest official in the village. He would manage the village affairs and perform functions related to recording and assessing land revenue, maintaining law and order, etc.
    • In the village, there was Gramika who was appointed amongst the people in the village. There wasn’t a uniform procedure to elect the Gramika and his election varied according to local conditions.
    • There were officials that acted as intermediaries between the village and the city administration. The Rajukas were officials at the district level that had been granted powers by Emperor Ashoka to perform certain welfare duties for the district. This was observed in the Fourth Pillar Edict of Ashoka.

Reasons for the disintegration of the Mauryan Empire

    • Mauryan empire ended 50 years after the death of Ashoka as his successor Brihadutta was killed in a coup by his commander in chief Pushyamitra Shunga. The Brahman general sought the opportune moment to overthrow the monarch.
    • Reasons behind the disintegration of the empire could be many. It was believed the Ashoka pro-Buddhist policies angered the Brahmanical class and provoked a rebellion. However, the policies were neither pro-Buddhist nor anti-Brahmanical and so reasons for provoking a rebellion are without basis.
    • A second cause is stated that Ashoka with its policies on non-violence could have created an atmosphere of weakness. This too is without basis as Ashoka did not put an end to violence when dealing with forest tribes or enemies of the Empire. Even the death penalty and torture were continued against prisoners.


  • The Mauryan empire was a centralized empire and after the death of Ashoka, there was a succession of weak rulers who ruled for a short time. This caused the imperial bureaucracy to split and the empire weakened. The decreasing content of silver in the currency also indicates that the royal treasury was depleting and it was not possible to maintain a central administration and bureaucracy. The famine and floods in the Ganges river valley which was the heart of the empire created a loss of lives and revenue. The agrarian economy needed iron for flourishing and this demand couldn’t be met by the state alone. This was because the state had a monopoly over mining. As Magadha reserves of iron-depleted, it was necessary for mining in newer areas such as Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. But this was difficult as local chiefs had to be suppressed.

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